By Michael Hernandez
LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles County led by Los Angeles Unified School District—the second largest public school system in the nation—will open to special education and ESL students for in-person instruction starting Monday, Sept. 14.
“As long as schools can fully operate under the health officer orders, they can reopen (for these students),” said LA County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis. “This will get children who are in the most need of in-person learning back into the classroom.”
Kindergarten through 12th grade school campuses will remain closed to the majority of students; but those with individualized education plans (IEPs) and students learning English as a Second Language (ESL) and other students requiring specialized in-school services or assessments will be allowed to return to campuses in small groups reported the L.A. Daily News Sept. 2.
“Our students with special needs and English Learners are among the most vulnerable during this time of distance learning,” said Debra Duardo, LA County Superintendent of Schools. “I applaud Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer for acknowledging the challenges facing educators in ensuring all our students receive the services they need and deserve to succeed in school.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new color-coded system for opening up the state announced Aug. 28 placed LA County in Tier I (the most restrictive level) with an average of 10 new cases per 100,000 people. While this is down from 13 the week before, it is still above 7 cases per 100,000 threshold for moving to Tier 2.
LA County schools have approximately 190,000 students enrolled in special education and approximately 260,000 English learners according to 2018-19 school data. Los Angeles Unified School District has approximately 64,500 students (13 percent of its enrollment) with a significant disability according to the 2019 data. Another 123,500 students are learning to speak English proficiently reported the LA Times Sept. 2
Currently, 200 waivers for elementary schools (mostly private and faith-based schools) have been approved by California (including dozens in Orange and San Diego counties) to reopen for in-person instruction.
“We have no directive on opening schools for anyone,” said a Ventura County Office of Education official when called today by the Citizens Journal. The Ventura County Office of Special Education provides 86 classes at 22 school sites throughout Ventura County and one of five Ventura County students are English learners.
Not known at this time is the teacher unions response toward in-person instruction. Education officials are saying that a return to campus will require a separate round of negotiations between school districts and teachers.
Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].